dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Society benefits by vaccinating teachers

March 5th, 2021 by dk
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Only Oregon and Idaho have prioritized teachers for COVID-19 vaccinations. This should be a point of pride. Instead, Republican lawmakers used it as a pretense to boycott their work in Salem and angry letters to the editor have filled this page.

Courtney Campbell, a professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University, told The Oregonian that he can’t formulate “an ethically justified defense for prioritizing daycare, preschool and K-12 employees.” (I’m raising my hand, Professor.) Let me try!

The Oregon Health Authority counts 152,000 eligible teachers, K-12 support staff, early learning and childcare personnel who qualify for the vaccine. Prioritizing this small percentage of Oregon’s 4.2 million people will allow schools and daycare centers to reopen.

Anyone who believes that students can skip one whole year of schooling without risking lifelong harm is uninformed or unrealistic. Our “remote learning” regimen has been a dangerously inadequate substitute for the classroom experience.

Younger teachers and children without complicating conditions may not be at grave risk without the vaccine. Giving educators vaccine priority won’t save lives. It will do something bigger than that. It will preserve society. It will also curb deleterious effects students could otherwise suffer for the rest of their lives.

The Center for Disease Control has issued a ruling that teachers should be able to safely return to the classroom without first getting vaccinated, so long as the schools have proper ventilation, rigorous cleaning protocols and social distancing. When was the last time any of those CDC researchers visited a grade school classroom?

Yes, it is theoretically possible for a teacher avoid close contact with his or her students, but that would only replicate the worst parts of “remote learning.” It looks possible on paper, but not in the real world.

School does so much more than instruct our children. They need the classroom experience to gain important social skills. Teachers convey the material to be learned, but they also model a confidence that comes with mastery. Fearful teachers make hesitant learners.

Also consider social equity. The students losing the most ground are generally those with the smallest margin for error for future success. Stable families with large homes and present parents have been inconvenienced, but those children are more likely to maintain some academic momentum.

Families in crowded conditions without food security and Internet access have been less likely to keep their children connected to their teachers and academic goals. Once children feel they are falling behind their peers in school, the temptation to give up grows monstrously.

Get students back into their classrooms, where hunger and emotional fragilities can be addressed. Parents — especially mothers — will be more productive and less stressed. Neighborhoods will once again be woken by children being trundled off to school. The rhythm of life will resume.

The cost of prioritizing education staff is being borne by senior citizens. Big-box retail greeters notwithstanding, most seniors can minimize their exposure risk until they can be vaccinated. Every child that regains ground from the school year they’ve lost will benefit society for decades to come.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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End American territories

March 4th, 2021 by dk
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President Biden’s inauguration featured a field of flags to represent the hundreds of thousands of Americans who couldn’t attend or observe the festivities because of the pandemic. This somber Field of Flags was then illuminated for 46 seconds — for the 46th president — by 56 pillars of light, representing all Americans.

Why 56? Because the United States Census Bureau counts 4,280,889 Americans who don’t live in any of the 50 United States. They are spread across five American territories and the District of Columbia. “Inclusiveness” has become a popular buzzword in political and social circles, yet millions of Americans are not included in the 50 stars on our flag.

Put it this way: Those Americans who were represented in those six “extra” pillars of light are almost exactly equivalent to the entire population of Oregon. They pay taxes. They fight in our military. Are there any good reasons why they should be denied representation in Congress? None that I’ve ever heard.

Washington, DC’s population is slightly more than 700,000. Our capital city has more residents than Vermont or Wyoming, but no votes in Congress or the electoral college. If Puerto Rico became a state, its population would rank near the middle — slightly more than Iowa or Nevada, slightly fewer than Connecticut or Utah.

Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia should be granted statehood. This can be accomplished with a vote in both houses of Congress using the so-called Tennessee Plan. Oregon and four other states used this method to gain statehood in the mid-1800s. Alaska used it in 1959.

After America adds these two states, the other island territories can be added to other states. The U.S. Virgin Islands can be added to Puerto Rico. Hawaii’s population will grow by 20 percent with the addition of Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. (We claim nine other islands, reefs, or atolls as territories, but none have permanent populations.)

Quick action on statehood would quickly brighten Democrats’ electoral fortunes. Washington, DC votes overwhelmingly for Democrats. Puerto Rico has a history of leaning leftward, but not as reliably as the District. It’s not surprising that Republicans have long opposed this expansion, but that shouldn’t distract the decision.

Congress should give every American the full rights of citizenship not out of Democrats’ self-interest, but out of self-respect. It’s simply the right thing to do. Besides, having three or four more Democratic senators might extend the useful life of the filibuster and the electoral college.

Territories represent vestiges of our colonial roots. We haven’t had empiric ambitions since Vietnam. We used to need ocean islands as military refueling stations, but now we fly to Iraq and back from Nebraska. It’s past time we gave these island inhabitants inclusion or independence — their choice.

Biden and the Democrats campaigned on the promise to give the estimated 8 million undocumented workers a path to citizenship. How did they so easily overlook the 4.3 million among us who need something similar? We have a good history of fighting taxation without representation. We shouldn’t allow its continuance any longer.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Rush Limbaugh’s Outsized Impact

February 28th, 2021 by dk
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Rush Limbaugh didn’t invent talk (or hate) radio any more than Ray Kroc invented the hamburger. The innovation each came to represent had more to do with their business models capturing a cultural zeitgeist. The adage “form follows function” proves doubly true. A new profit model shapes the product, and then the product reshapes America.

Kroc bought into a fledgling hamburger restaurant chain in 1954. Dick and Mac McDonald had a recipe and a small customer base. Kroc had a vision for world domination. He built the juggernaut by selling franchises secured by real estate. By 1958, McDonald’s had sold 100 million hamburgers.

The secret was efficiency and standardization. Every McDonald’s hamburger tasted exactly the same. Americans loved their cars and the new interstate highway system. They also loved a familiar and affordable meal wherever they went. The business model fueled the growth, and that growth literally reshaped America — and many Americans.

Likewise, Rush Limbaugh and his colleagues recognized an opportunity and seized on it. For Kroc, it was Americans’ new mobility and their love for “the open road.” For Limbaugh, it was deregulated telecommunications and inexpensive toll-free calling.

Limbaugh had his own plan for world domination. His people offered a new deal for local radio stations. Limbaugh would provide hours of programming free of charge to general managers in return for a portion of the advertising slots during those hours.

For general managers, it was a dream come true. They stopped paying local personalities because national talent was available for free. The national advertisers rarely competed with the advertisers the local advertising sales staff could reach.

Limbaugh built a national audience and his business empire on a different sort of advertiser. What could be sold over the phone and sent through the mail? Ointments and supplements, reverse mortgages and pillows, using dedicated 800 lines to track responses. The rate they pay for the national ad spot is often based on sales generated.

Notice how the consequences of this business model ripple outward. National advertisers attracted to this arrangement usually sell only one product and a promise: “Buy from us and your problem will disappear.” They’re not looking for repeat customers. Loyalty doesn’t matter. Most sales are “one and done.” 

They sell miracle cures — the last remedy you’ll ever need for stiff joints, sleepless nights, financial anxieties, etcetera. They don’t seek loyal customers. The 800 number you called to order may well be disconnected before you say, “money-back guarantee.”

Does this reshape the listeners? How could it not? The miracle cure model inevitably seeps into the programming content itself. “Whatever pain you’re feeling, we can fix it. We don’t need to meet you. We already know you. Those experts that others trust are wrong. Call this number and your pain will vanish.”

Never mind that last week’s solutions are no longer here. Or that one ad’s promise contradicts or nullifies previous ads’ claims. There’s no longitudinal logic to it — no cause and effect. No loyalty. No learning. That’s the world that Limbaugh built. We have to live in it, even if he no longer does.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Replant on Spencer Butte. Here’s Why

February 26th, 2021 by dk
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Eugene city officials announced last week that the Douglas fir tree atop Spencer Butte that was senselessly felled by a vandal won’t be replaced.

Kelly Shadwick, speaking on behalf of the Eugene Parks and Open Space Division, assessed the chances of a replacement tree as poor. “This tree was just uniquely adapted for that climate and that habitat,” she said. “Really, the fact that it stood alone is a testament to just how tough the conditions are.”

The city’s analysis is correct. And also wrong.

Shadwick pointed out that the soil there is rocky and shallow. “A planted tree would be highly unlikely to survive. It’s an irreplaceable and special tree.” The unlikelihood of the life that tree had is exactly the reason it should be replaced.

I agree with Eugene poet Barbara Mossberg, who said it beautifully in a letter to the editor: “Life should have a chance…. To plant a replacement tree says that an act of destruction is not the final outcome. That in itself is a powerful message of civic resilience.”

We’re having this discussion about the fate of an unlikely sapling at the same time that Americans are marveling at the pictures returning from Mars. President John F. Kennedy added some powerful rhetorical propulsion to our space program in 1961. He famously articulated how government can and should embody our collective ambitions.

“We choose to go to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

We ask government to do things that are hard all the time. Mowing grass on a median strip between busy lanes is hard, but greenery along roadways is nice. Measuring pollutants in drinking water is hard, but our health requires it. Tallying our homeless population annually is hard, but it’s important and necessary.

The city should plant a tree near where this one was lost. It should be marked for those who climb the butte. If it dies, or is vandalized, it should be replaced. It may take dozens or hundreds of attempts to find another tree that can thrive in that unlikely environment. Why should the difficulty dissuade us? “Life should have a chance.”

Our collective refusal to abandon hope that another tree can someday have the same view as that 40-foot fir will inspire us for decades. We need government to do small things for us, but also big things on our behalf. This would be both.

If the city doesn’t act, you can be sure private citizens will, but not in any coordinated manner. It was our people, after all, who erected a cross atop Skinner Butte in the dark of night because government officials dithered. 

Do we want dozens of saplings planted by vigilantes? Better to have an official city response that speaks for and to all of us. Unlikelihood is not the end — it’s the point.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Bring Back Earmarks

February 22nd, 2021 by dk
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No one should doubt President Biden’s desire to bring Democrats and Republicans together. His policy positions have shifted over his decades in public life, but he has never wavered in his love for collegiality and his display of magnanimity. I hope the depth of that wellspring will summon Biden’s super power, uniquely suited to this time.

In one way, it’s already happening. The policies his administration has been advocating receive overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans alike across the country. It’s only on Capitol Hill where his initiatives draw Republican shrugs. Here is what could change that. Earmarks may be returning to Congress.

There’s really only one thing that has reliably brought Congresspeople together over the centuries — sending money to constituents. We saw it in the four bipartisan pandemic relief bills passed last year. Legislation always moved more smoothly when the gears were greased with targeted projects for individual lawmakers.

Earmarks have been demonized for decades and forbidden outright since 2011. That should change.

The good governance scolds object to earmarks on two levels — the general and the particular. Broadly speaking, we wish we could redact greed from our leadership’s ranks, not reward it. And some of those rewards were scandalous. We’d be better off without another “bridge to nowhere” made famous by Alaska Rep. Don Young.

What makes us so sure that unending partisan gridlock is better for the country?

After all, we have our own bridge with a disreputable legislative past. Rep. Peter DeFazio secured funding to widen the Ferry Street Bridge shortly after he arrived in Washington. When local activists moved to prevent more traffic funneling into downtown, the money was reallocated to fund the eponymous footbridge into Alton Baker Park.

Can a thin layer of lucre bring back Biden’s dream of bipartisan legislation? I think it’s worth a try. I’m not alone.

The incoming chairs of the Appropriations Committee in both the House and the Senate have signaled that an announcement to reinstate earmarks may be coming soon. It will be rebranded, with some ethical upgrades added.

“Member-directed spending” will be limited to state and local governments and certain nonprofit organizations with quasi-government functions. For-profit companies will not qualify. Organizations with financial ties to the member of Congress will be disallowed. New earmarks will be disclosed, as will its sponsor. The percentage of a spending bill going to member-directed projects will be capped.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro advocated reinstating earmarks in her campaign to become chair of Appropriations. The House Appropriations Committee said as much in a statement released this week. “Chair DeLauro has been clear that she supports Member-directed funding for community projects.”

“Chairman [Sen. Patrick] Leahy has been clear about his intent to restore congressionally directed spending in a transparent and accountable way as part Congress’ constitutional power of the purse,” according to the press secretary for the Senate Appropriations panel.

The return of earmarks will give Biden and his Congressional leaders a powerful tool to reward members for endorsing bills. Will the cure turn out to be worse than the disease? Only time will tell.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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City Can Reshape Contract Talks with NW Natural

February 22nd, 2021 by dk
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If the Eugene City Council doesn’t agree to another extension or draft a necessary ordinance immediately, the city’s franchise agreement with NW Natural will lapse in early May. This is not what the city or the natural gas company wants. On the other hand, it’s exactly what climate activists want. It makes no sense for the utility company to be stalling.

The franchise agreement functions as a lease on public rights-of-way. If you had millions invested in equipment and conduit, would you want to go month-to-month with your landlord? The franchise agreement gives the company fast and flexible access, but more importantly, it gives them certainty.

In this way, it’s more like a land lease. Take as an example the Phoenix Inn on Franklin Boulevard. It was built in 1993 on land that belongs to Northwest Christian College, now Bushnell University. That land lease is set to expire this year, so Bushnell will take over the 96-room hotel and renovate it as a welcome center for their campus.

Does NW Natural really want to abandon its assets inside Eugene’s city limits in a similar way? Would any members of the Eugene City Council really want to see the heat turned off for natural gas customers inside their voting district? The answer is obviously no in both instances.

The utility wants a new franchise agreement that resembles the last one. The city wants the utility to contractually share the city’s carbon neutrality goals and burdens. Those goals were first articulated by then-Mayor Kitty Piercy in 2005 and adopted by the City Council in its Climate Recovery Ordinance in 2014.

There’s absolutely no new information here. The city’s position been clear and specific for seven years, broadly understood for twice that. In spite of clear self-interest for both parties, negotiations have become a game of chicken. Its seepage is beginning to smell like rotten eggs.

Treating it like a game might not be a bad idea, if we can leave the chicken out of it. Game theory offers a strategy that provides the utility with a legal extension but gives councilors a (practical, if not theoretical) endpoint to the bargaining.

The city should halve the next extension and stipulate that all subsequent extensions will likewise be half the duration of the preceding extension. This would define an ultimate endpoint without exactly doing that. In some ways, the city has already begun using this model. The new franchise agreement’s term will be 10 years, down from 20.

Councilors want something else from a final agreement, and good for them. Council Vice President Claire Syrett stated at last week’s work session what many of her colleagues and the mayor have said many times before. They hope to “create a model other communities could follow.” Ambition is too often met with suspicion here.

This “diminishing deadlines” strategy gives the city a new tool they can use again with other recalcitrant partners in the future. If we inspire other cities to follow our lead, that’s exactly what Piercy had in mind from the start.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Secret Ballots Could Save Democracy

February 13th, 2021 by dk
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Republicans in the U. S. House of Representatives took two votes last week inside their caucus. They supported Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been one of Trump’s loudest supporters. Then they endorsed Rep. Liz Cheney’s leadership position, despite her vote for Trump’s impeachment.

How could legislators take two votes on the same day that represented diametrically opposed positions? The answer is simple. The Greene referendum was public. It ended with a standing ovation. Cheney’s fate was determined by secret ballot.

If politicians have a singular skill, it’s the uncanny ability to “read the room.” Abandoning Greene could cause them trouble they wouldn’t want. On Cheney, they could vote their conscience, without fear of reprisals. Only 61 voted to remove Cheney from leadership, with 145 supporting her.

That got me thinking about a new way to curb polarization and extremism on Capitol Hill. It would also free Congresspeople from the thrall of monied interests. Imagine how less poisonous and more productive Congress could become if secret ballots were allowed for legislation.

Lobbyists would hate it, because they could never be sure whether their campaign contributions bought them votes. Campaign consultants wouldn’t be able to churn out disparaging “score cards” of past votes that attack political opponents. (Does anyone know any better argument in favor than incurring the wrath of these two groups?)

I looked into it. It could be done.

Article 1, Section 5, third paragraph of the U. S. Constitution requires the House and Senate to publish “from time to time” … “a Journal of its Proceedings” that records “the Yeas and Nays of the Members” … “excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy.”

There’s a second exception. Any vote can be kept secret if four-fifths of those present request it. Could a vote to keep a vote secret itself require secrecy? That could be decided with a majority vote.

Before you become too convinced that Democrats and Republicans could never join forces to attain an 80 percent supermajority, look again at the secret ballot result on Cheney. Every Democrat would support Cheney’s anti-Trump remarks. The 61 Republicans who wanted her punished represent less than 15 percent of the entire House.

The practice of secret voting is not completely unheard of. The House has twice voted to select a president when the Electoral College failed to produce a winner — Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and John Quincy Adams in 1824. Those votes were secret. More recently, the House passed an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act in 2016 by a voice vote, leaving no record of individual votes.

Granted, it’s not an ideal solution. Transparency is always preferred. But we all agree the status quo is not working. Until we figure out a way to stop every vote from being weaponized or remunerated, using secret ballots selectively could help democracy steer around its present pothole of partisanship.

If Congress took secret votes, legislators could focus on making laws — instead of constantly raising money and guarding their incumbency. We can’t get money out of politics. But we can make it worthless.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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What Comes After (the) Enlightenment?

February 11th, 2021 by dk
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I feel like I’m performing a John Cage ASLSP composition, striking a single note once a year. If you aren’t familiar with Cage’s “As Slow As Possible” works, there’s one being currently performed on the St. Burchardi’s church organ in Halberstadt, Germany. It’s slated to finish in the year 2640. I don’t know whether there’s an intermission scheduled.

French philosopher René Descartes died 371 years ago this week. The year 1650 is commonly used to mark the beginning of an epoch of Western civilization that Descartes called “the Age of Reason.” It later became known as the Enlightenment. Almost everything around us took shape inside its influence.

I’ve been harping on the idea for several years that this epoch is ending. We’ve used it to organize our perception of the world, but it’s been crumbling around us for decades. Recent events have merely seized on the chaos that’s been gurgling below the surface.

Has the Enlightenment epoch already ended? If it has, it wouldn’t be widely recognized by people living through its demise. Its terminus will be clear only in retrospect. The epoch’s finale will have to be reviewed like Cage’s ASLSP performance in Halberstadt. Time, duration and endurance are essential to the piece.

Whenever I posit that our civilization’s entire framework is collapsing, I get one of two responses. Some counter that our recent penchant for silliness will dissipate once we face a foe that endangers every human equally. An alien invasion will shake us back into our collective senses. COVID-19 has shown that optimism is misplaced.

The other response my declaration elicits came first after a speech I gave to one of Eugene’s Rotary Clubs maybe two decades ago. Jim Ralph was a step ahead of others, including me. “If what you’re saying is true,” he asked, “what follows? What comes next?”

I admitted that I didn’t know, then mumbled some sort of guess about recursion. Following the “As Slow As Possible” model, let me hit a new note in response. 

Abandon the Cartesian dualities and embrace German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel’s refined dialectical model. Both men saw polarities, but Hegel’s model offers a path forward. Every thesis evokes its antithesis, eventually producing a synthesis (which then becomes a new thesis, perpetuating motion).

The “age of reason” has provoked a continual backlash for centuries. We’ve long known the limits of reason. To be completely rational can be unreasonable. 

Romanticists chose beauty over critical thinking. Populists — and now pollsters — have embraced emotions over reason. The puzzle of a path forward remains. What does reason leave out or overlook? What incorporates expertise and the populist refusal to accept it? What force will compel us forward?

I believe our future — if our species has one — is pulling us toward empathy and understanding.

We feel for other people. We ask for help. We articulate our intent. These unique skills bring us together. They build our collective understanding. We see our part, while also recognizing a greater whole. How long will the transition to a new epoch take? I have no plans until 2640.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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GOP’s Path to Plausible Deniability

February 6th, 2021 by dk
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Situational analysis: Republicans want to put Trump in the political rear-view mirror. They especially don’t want him planning or promising to run for president again in 2024. But Trump has boxed them in by whispering (not very softly) that he could just start his own Patriot Party if he feels like Republicans treat him badly.

How can Senate Republicans sideline Trump without provoking his vengeance? They don’t dare vote to convict him in the upcoming impeachment trial. Unfortunately, his conviction offers the surest path to accomplishing their ultimate goal.

A conviction requires a supermajority of two-thirds of the Senators present, but a subsequent vote to bar Trump from holding public office again requires only a simple majority. There is a way to thread this needle for Republicans, but they will need a bit of cooperation from the Democratic leadership. Democrats should be willing to help.

Republicans have mostly settled on a process argument against voting to convict the now-former president. Almost all Republican Senators voted in favor of Sen. Rand Paul’s motion to dismiss the impeachment as moot. The U.S. Senate cannot remove from office a president who has already been removed, so why hold a trial at all?

The process question that Paul brought to the fore has some internal logic to it. Republicans need only add what their campaign and communication machinery does best. Senators can preen with outrage and righteous indignation, forging for themselves the cowards’ path to conviction.

Twenty or more from the Republican caucus need only do what Republicans seem to do best, which  is nothing at all. They can speed the impeachment conviction by refusing to show up for the vote, claiming that the trial itself is unconstitutional.

This will give them what every politician seeks — plausible deniability. They can tell their constituents how they “would have” voted at the conclusion of the trial, if only their love of our country’s founding document hadn’t required them to stay home that day.

If the conviction vote proceeds without them, that lowers the number of conviction votes necessary to reach the necessary threshold of two-thirds of Senators present. Not incidentally, the cowards’ absence will also lower their risk of a retaliatory primary challenge. Democrats and a few token Republicans can convict the former president.

Remember, though, this. Impeachment and conviction won’t sideline Trump. He could still run again. No (supposed) billionaire has ever parlayed victimhood like Trump, so he could launch his 2024 campaign as a near-martyr. The rallies script themselves.

After a conviction, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would control whether and when a banishment vote is taken. Getting Trump out of the way matters more to Republicans than to Democrats, so what legislative concessions can Schumer extract in return for a vote to ban Trump from ever holding public office again?

It’s become increasingly rare for Republicans to care more about a floor vote than Democrats in the Senate. Schumer should seize a rare opportunity to exchange legislative favors. What will vulnerable Republicans trade for Trump’s exile and their own plausible deniability?

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Oregonians Will Help Buttigieg Get Rolling

February 5th, 2021 by dk
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Pete Buttigieg this week became President Biden’s Secretary of Transportation, just 14 days after his 39th birthday. This makes him the youngest transportation secretary ever, but not by much. Former Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt was also 39 (plus a few months) when he took over as President Carter’s Secretary of Transportation in 1979.

Goldschmidt was midway through his second term as Portland’s youngest mayor when Carter added his youth and vision to the presidential cabinet. We don’t hear very much about Goldschmidt because of some disastrous personal choices he made during his mayoral years. “Cancel culture” shouldn’t prevent us from noting what he accomplished for Portland, for Oregon and for the nation.

Buttigieg should pick Goldschmidt’s brain about urban planning.

History has shown that a mayor of a smallish city can develop a national vision for American cities. By every measure available, it’s worked. America’s urban centers attract talent and create wealth like never before. Goldschmidt deserves some of the credit.

Portland in the 1970s was a dangerous mix of backwater desperation. It had too few bridges, too much crime, and not enough pride. Portland was roughly twice the size of Eugene today when Goldschmidt became mayor in 1973. Like Eugene and most smallish cities — including Buttigieg’s South Bend, Ind. — residents cherished their neighborhoods and their quality of life. Downtown safety and economic development mattered less than lawns and neighbors.

Goldschmidt solved that puzzle with transportation. He showed Portland’s neighborhood leaders what a light rail system would look like and offered them a bargain. Every part of town would gain a new connection to downtown and would share an investment in its success. Local leaders would have to quiet the NIMBY protesters who opposed change as a knee-jerk reaction.

In return, Goldschmidt promised local leaders what they wanted most. Each neighborhood would retain and deepen its own heritage, character and identity. Looking back almost 50 years, Goldschmidt delivered on that promise. 

If you feel like you’ve never quite deciphered Portland, you’re not alone. I’ve spent a lot of time there and I feel the same way. Here’s why. Portland isn’t a single place. It’s a collection of a couple dozen places, knit together by their light rail system.

When Portland residents express pride for their city, probe a bit and it’s almost always first and foremost about their neighborhood. Portlanders often identify their neighborhood by the name of its central transit stop.

Goldschmidt pioneered giving residents a new sort of civic pride — one that is centered around and built upon their everyday experiences, while also celebrating the larger area’s collective assets. Other cities have since borrowed Portland’s playbook.

It’s no coincidence that Edward McGlone, formerly Director of Public Affairs at Lane Transit District, has been hired to serve as Buttigieg’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs. McGlone will continue working closely with yet another Oregonian.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon’s longest serving member of Congress, is chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. With help from DeFazio, McGlone and Goldschmidt, Buttigieg’s work will roll out with a distinctively Oregonian spin to it.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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